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SPRING HILL — With an undefeated record in Hernando County play and a season sweep of Nature Coast on the line, Springstead was primed for its first match after the holiday break Wednesday night.
Playing in front of the home crowd at Booster Stadium, the Eagles walked away with a thrilling 3-2 victory thanks to the first career hat trick from Harry Bennett.
The triumph gave Springstead (10-3-1) its fifth consecutive season with double-digit wins and the first such campaign under first-year coach Warren Schmidt. The Eagles are 5-0 in county play.
“We capitalized on a few of our opportunities,” Schmidt said, “but we didn’t play as well as we played the first time (against Nature Coast).”
Last month, the Eagles shut out the Sharks (7-7-4) at the Shark Tank 3-0, but despite heading to the locker room up 1-0 Wednesday, Springstead had to work a little harder this time.
“We took a few more chances offensively and were a little more aggressive,” Nature Coast coach Ian Wald said. “It hurt us a couple of times, but it gave us some opportunities, too.”
Those chances netted the Sharks two goals in less than a minute in the second half to tie the match at 2.
First, a yellow card delivered to Springstead defender Jubin Thomas gave Cody Van Natter a penalty kick, the second such chance for Nature Coast. Although Eagles keeper Matt McDuff (seven saves) made a diving stop on the first attempt in the first half, he wasn’t able to do the same this time as Van Natter scored his fourth goal of the season.
After the reset, a long pass by Austin Lacy hit sophomore forward Alec Perkins for his second goal of the year.
In the end, it all went back to the offensive star of the game wearing the all-white uniform of the home team. Bennett, who came in with eight goals, scored on a breakaway 13 minutes in. The junior forward then opened the second half scoring on a give-and-go with Derek Mikisits.
The winner capped things off when Tyler Arcidiacono centered a pass to Bennett with 12 minutes remaining in regulation.
“It was a bit shaky for a while, but we stayed close as a team and got it together,” Bennett said.